Despite the recent declaration by the Greenwich Observatory in London that
the next century does not begin until 1 January 2001,
people the world over are going ahead at full speed to welcome it in the year 2000!
As we approach this landmark year 2000, people of nationalities are pondering over their past and forecasting their future. Virtually every field of human achievement has been scrutinised to produce lists of this century's greatest personalities. And, not surprisingly, no two lists have shown an exact agreement.
Experiences from the past help to shape a better future. So, in essence, the most friutful exercise for man, as he approaches the threshold of the next century, is to analyse the past and plan for the future. It is a pity that amidst the commercial extravaganza this event has generated, its spiritual dimension has been largely overlooked.
Even so, Prince Charles has gone on record as saying that this occasion "presents a moment of spiritual and national renewal.... an opportunity to restore and renew the face as well as the heart of the world, the future.... to understand the significance... I believe we must delve deeper into the sacred basis of our existence."
When asked, this was a view voiced by Swamishri.
Q: "What is special about the year 2000?"
Swamishri: "It's just that it serves as a point in time to look back on the progress man has made, and also to look forward to the future. We must learn from the past... not to make the same mistakes again... and learn to live better as we go along."
Elaborating on the methodology, Swamishri refers to the timeless guidance imparted by our ancient rishis in the scriptures, "If we live in accordance with their ways, then we will be happy. Universal values do not change...they are a basic part of our existence and must remain so. Of course, some minor things may need to be modified as time goes along.... But fundamental principles can never be changed."
Explaining the key to a better, brighter future Swamishri revealed, "First and foremost we need to have absolute faith in God. It is because God exists that we exist. He is at the root of all happiness. And it is because God dwells within each of us that we can enjoy all the things we enjoy. God has created everything, and He controls everything. If man lives according to the laws of God, only then can everything run smoothly. But if there is no faith in God, then man will act wantonly - killing, hurting and disrupting the world."
It is evident from Swamishri's answers that his vision of the future is clear. He is sure that a peaceful and prosperous future is only possible if it is God-centred.
At the recent Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town, the Dalai Lama said that people who expect the year 2000 to bring a miraculous transformation in society are wasting their time. He added, "Peace should come from within. Genuine lasting world peace can only come from inner peace."
In conclusion, Swamishri's answer to the question posed by reporter Ibrahim Patel of the South African Broadcasting Corporation on 8-8-99, provides a concise summary of where man has faltered in the past and how universal peace and progress can be achieved.
Q: "What is your message for the next century?"
Swamishri: "As we are approaching the year 2000, there is one very clear statement that today man has become corrupt in so many ways. He is thinking more and more about the ways and means to attain mundane happiness. And he does this at the cost of inflicting pain and loss to thousands of people. We see a great greed for power regardless of the misunderstanding and conflict it spawns. New researches and discoveries are made to destroy people. People produce and peddle drugs and alcohol to harrass mankind, to make it miserable and destroy it.
"For the New Year one should endeavour to free oneself from addictions, vices and base nature. Man should strive to earn money rather than kill someone for it. May people respect and love each other. We also wish that there should be projects that inspire peaceful coexistence and publication of wholesome literature. To enhance faith iin God more mandirs should be established, people should study the holy scriptures, respect and love the holy saints. When such feelings arise in people then the country will benefit and progress all the more."